THE RESTORATION PLEA: IS IT VALID?
The restoration plea is a plea to go back to the Bible for all that we preach, teach, believe, and practice in the realm of religion. As we noted in our essay last week, it is a plea to take the Bible as our only guide in religious matters and use it as the divine pattern by which to reproduce in the present day the church as it existed in the first century—in faith, doctrine, and practice. It is a humble plea to speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent, to call Bible things by Bible names and to do Bible things in the Bible way.
Is the restoration plea valid? Is it a sound, reasonable, logical, and defensible plea? Should people today be concerned about discovering what God has authorized in the Scriptures in the way of religious belief and practice and hold to those same beliefs and practices today?
Some 700 to 800 years after God had given the Law of Moses to the Israelites on Mount Sinai the people had departed far from the Lord and His law. A good king by the name of Hezekiah saw the apostasy of the nation of Judah and led it in a restoration movement. “He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden images and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan” (II Kings 18:4). All of these were symbols of the idolatry into which the people of God had sunk. Of Hezekiah the Bible says, “For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (II Kings 18:6). Hezekiah viewed the Law of Moses as a pattern for the service of God, and wherein the people had departed from that pattern, he led them to return to it. God was pleased with the restoration efforts of Hezekiah to bring the people back to the standard God had set for them centuries before in the Law of Moses!
Several years pass and God’s people again enter a state of apostasy. (How true it is that God’s people never remain entirely faithful to Him for very long!) A king by the name of Josiah came to the throne of Judah, and Hilkiah, the high priest, found a copy of “the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord” (II Kings 22:8). (How ironic that the book of God had been lost in the house of God! Sadly, however, that was not the last time for such a thing to happen! It continues to happen in our own day.) Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan the scribe who, in turn, read the book to Josiah the king. When Josiah heard the words of the book, he commissioned the priests and scribes to “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (II Kings 22:13).
The following chapter of II Kings relates the great restoration movement enacted by Josiah and how God was pleased with what he did. “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him” (II Kings 23:25). Jeremiah, who lived during the reign of Josiah, urged God’s people to “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16).
These two pieces of Old Testament history show that the restoration plea—the plea to call people back to God’s authoritative standard of religion—is valid, reasonable, and right. In the New Testament we are reminded that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4). Let us learn from Hezekiah and Josiah!
Jesus believed in the validity of the restoration principle and the restoration plea. When the Pharisees tried to trap Him concerning divorce and remarriage He called them back to God’s original law concerning this sacred relationship (Matthew 19:1-9). When the rich young ruler questioned Jesus about what to do to have eternal life, Christ told him to keep the commandments found in the Law of Moses (Matthew 19:16-22). When a certain lawyer asked Him what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read” (Luke 10:26)? These texts all emphasize that Christ regarded the Law of Moses as the authoritative pattern of conduct for people of that time, and wherein they had departed from that standard they had to go back to it to be pleasing to the Lord. Christ Himself therefore placed great emphasis on the restoration principle and the restoration plea!
“When anyone accepts any part of the Scriptures as an authoritative rule of faith and practice, he has, regardless of how limited his concept might be, accepted the restoration principle, at least to some degree. When one appeals to the Scriptures on grace, faith, blood, mercy, etc., he is essentially saying, ‘Let us return to the Bible on grace, faith, blood, mercy, etc.’ Thus it is no man can appeal to the Scriptures as authority without embracing the restoration plea” (Howard Winters, Up To Bethany: Another Look At The Restoration Plea, p. 15). Sadly, however, many do not want to return to what the Bible says about baptism, the nature of the church, the organization of the church, how we are to worship, or how we are to live! As a “left leaning” preacher in Dallas, Texas said to me many years ago, “We all believe the Bible is a pattern to some extent, but many of us do not believe it is a pattern to the extent that some of the rest of you believe that it is!”
The New Testament is the standard by which people are to live and serve the Lord today (Matthew 5:17; 17:5; 28:18; John 12:48; Hebrews 1:1-2; 12:25). All that we teach, believe, and practice in religion is to be by the authority of Christ and the inspired apostles and prophets of the New Testament. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name (by the authority, hf) of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). And wherein people have departed from that divine standard, it is rational, reasonable, and right to call them back to it!
This is the restoration plea! It is a valid and biblical plea!
September 19, 2017